June 8, 2018

My triple Axel moment



If you don't watch figure skating (and even if you do), you may not understand the importance of the triple Axel in competition.

First of all, it's the only forward-facing jump in the skaters' arsenal. All other jumps are executed while skating backward. It's also the most difficult of the six jumps figure skaters do, with the highest potential point totals. 

Women skaters are required to include an Axel in competition, usually executing doubles, but three American women have landed triples (requiring three-and-a-half rotations in the air) in competition. It's a pretty big deal.

You might have realized that I'm not a figure skater, but I did recently have a "triple Axel moment."

There was a time when you would see a skater skip a jump during their program and add it back in at the end. Adding in a jump that was missed is penalized now, and most skaters won't do it because of the precise choreography that's rehearsed over and over. But from time to time, you'll still see a skater throw in a jump late in the program that was unexpected. Something similar happened to me during the Storytellers Project event last month.

I had been practicing this ten-minute story for about two months. By the time the event came around, I was able to tell the story pretty smoothly each time I rehearsed. There were a few transitions I kept getting stuck on, but the great thing about a storytelling event is the fact that you're telling a story! It's not a presentation; it's not a TED talk; it doesn't have to be memorized or use the exact same wording every time. It's a story.

I was the first teller on stage; what a relief! I could sit back, relax, and watch all the other tellers once I was done!

I will confess that I struggled with some aspects of the event. First, there was a fixed mic on a stand in the middle of the stage, and we were not allowed to remove it or walk around the stage, for the purposes of videotaping. I'm used to moving around the stage or the room, and it was awkward to have to stand in one place. But I had practiced this way, so it wasn't as awkward as I expected it to be.

Another thing that was strange for me: Stage lighting! My speaking engagements are mostly trainings in training rooms or conference rooms. The room is fully lit and I can see and interact with everyone. In the case of the storytellers event, the room was darkened, there was lighting on me, and I could only see silhouettes of the audience members. Because I couldn't see their faces, I couldn't read their energy or nonverbal responses, and just had to listen for verbal cues (hmmm, ahhs, laughter), to know how I was doing!

I started my story, and to my delight, the audience was right there with me. Going first, I didn't know how "warmed up" they would be. Were they ready? Would I have to warm them up for the other speakers? Well, they were warm. Early on, I got a laugh just where I wanted it. I relaxed and got into the story.

And then... I lost my place! And this was not a segment I had ever messed up in practice, so I hadn't developed mental tricks to find my way back. It was GONE. In my mind, I panicked, but out loud, I just continued on with the first thing that came to mind.

As I spoke, I reached into my brain to search for the missing piece of the story. Ahh, THERE it is! I remembered what it was that I had skipped, and as I continued telling the story, I now determined where to slip the segment back in.

Whew. Done. Segment re-inserted (my triple Axel moment), and my story continued to the end with no more mishaps.

It's hard to describe how I could be telling the story and engaging with the audience while being in my head rearranging the story so I could put the missing piece back in.

What I will say is that this is what experience gets you. I have been speaking, teaching and training for about 26 years, and I because I know my material and I don't fear making mistakes any more, I don't get into an outward "panic mode." I know how to stay calm and keep my wits about me. And I understand the importance of practice and rehearsal for newer material, so I can do things like rearrange a talk on the fly.

Skaters have muscle memory; their bodies know exactly what to do and when, even if they get thrown off in the moment by a mistake. They fall, and then they get up and keep going and complete the routine.

Speakers also have muscle memory. After having practiced out loud enough times, we can also pick up where we left off in a program, even after a mistake.

This is why I encourage my clients to practice more than they think they need to! And why I encourage my clients and audiences who are newer to speaking to take as many speaking engagements as possible. There is no substitute for experience.

As I came down from the stage and took my seat next to my husband, I heard him say "It was perfect." I said, "You didn't notice that I totally left out a piece of the story and then added it back in later?" Nope. He didn't notice a thing. Of course, he didn't have my story memorized. But he also didn't see me panic, didn't notice an awkward pause, and didn't find the flow to be interrupted in any way.

Success!

Click here to watch the video if you'd like to hear the story (it's about ten minutes long), and especially if you'd like to try to spot the mishap!



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Are you an entrepreneur or professional who's looking for better results from your speaking? Are you hoping to build credibility and visibility for your business or cause? Tired of just "getting by" and ready to deliver truly engaging and powerful presentations? Click here to fill out my consultation questionnaire and we'll schedule a time to talk!

May 8, 2018

10 reasons to join the Presenting for Humans Success Circle



Are you thinking about joining the Presenting for Humans Success Circle, but not sure if it's right for you?

Perhaps I can help you decide with these points about the benefits of the program to you!

1. Author-led discussion: Most book clubs and study groups are not led by the author, the person who knows more than anyone else about the process for the book, the premise of the book, the core message and teachings, and the whys, whats and hows of the book. PFH Success Circle has me, the author, leading discussion, answering questions, and coaching you along the way!

2. Practical outcomes: This is a program to help you put the concepts in the book into practice. Sure, you could read the book on your own, but we all know how much better we are at implementing (and avoiding procrastination) when we have accountability partners! Your goals will include finishing the week's reading assignment before our live call, and coming ready to review what you read and to compare notes with your fellow participants.

3. Making connections with your fellow program members: A shared love of reading is already a great connection point among you, but your shared interest in speaking adds another level of depth to your connections. It's a great online networking opportunity (when you join the Facebook group, especially) for meeting like-minded individuals—no matter where you live in the world.

4. The difference between reading a book alone and reading as a group is huge: Reading a book and discussing it as a group opens your mind to ideas you might not have considered, conclusions you might not have come to, and perspectives you might not have gained. Reading and discussing as a group supercharges your learning and absorption of concepts and takes you in entirely new directions.

5. Practice and grow your communication skills: Reading a book about public
speaking is one thing, but actually formulating ideas and sharing them with the group, defending your opinions, speaking up for your beliefs, and persuading others to see your perspective—tactfully and respectfully—are all valuable opportunities to enhance your own communication skills as well as to help you retain information better and reinforce your learning.

6. It's virtual: I get that the wine, snacks and personal interaction are big draws for in-person book clubs. But not everyone has the time (or calorie allowance) for that. You can stay at your desk or (if you're like me) on the couch in your pajamas. There's no judgement! Join the meeting from wherever you are, and even if you can't join live, it will be recorded so you won't miss a thing. You can leave your comments in the Facebook group at any time—whether you're a night owl or an early bird, whether you're in Australia or Africa. (Feel free to bring your own wine...)

7. And because it's virtual, you choose your own method of interaction: You can exclusively stick to the Facebook group if you prefer to write out your thoughts. You can come to the live Zoom calls, participate with the other members and get your questions answered on the spot by moi. You can shoot video sharing your comments and upload to Facebook. Or you can do any combination of these, or whatever else you think of! (Want to make a pic collage or Pinterest board with public speaking memes? Go ahead!)

8. You will learn to be a better speaker: There's just one book and one topic here. If you want to learn to be a better speaker, you've come to the right place. We will be 100% laser-focused on speaking. Your questions about speaking will be answered, your knowledge will grow, your opportunities to improve will expand. Period.

9. It's affordable: If private coaching isn’t an option for you right now, the PFH Success Circle is the next best thing with laser coaching and a private Facebook group—where I'm very active—and the only way to work with me for under $800.

10. It's a short time commitment: The program starts in May and ends in June. There are five weekly calls (but if you can't make it live, they'll be recorded). The reading is light: two chapters a week. We'll accomplish a lot in this short time frame, but it's not going to take months of your life to complete or hours a week of homework.

Each week, participants will read assigned chapters, do personal exploration and reflection, and return to the group for follow-up, discussion, and laser coaching on the concepts learned.

PFH Success Circle includes:

  • A signed hard copy of the book (if you register by 4:00 p.m. PDT on Monday, May 7!)
  • Five live coaching calls focused on action-taking and implementation of the main principles in the book
  • Worksheets and handouts to help you integrate the ideas we’re discussing
  • Recordings of all the calls
  • A private Facebook group for discussion, support, encouragement and resources

Just think: You can start and finish a book during this five week program! You can gain some new perspective on public speaking. You can have fun and meet new friends.

The program starts Thursday, May 10. Register here.

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Are you an entrepreneur or professional who's looking for better results from your speaking? Are you hoping to build credibility and visibility for your business or cause? Tired of just "getting by" and ready to deliver truly engaging and powerful presentations? Click here to fill out my consultation questionnaire and we'll schedule a time to talk!

April 11, 2018

Let go instead of holding on (to your content)



"Perfection is finally attained, not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away."
~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, aircraft designer and author of The Little Prince

I'm fortunate that, in most of my speaking, I'm not required to be particularly concise. My speaking engagements are mostly trainings that range from three hours to three days, and there's a lot of room for spontaneous stories and discussion built into my workshops.

Of course, I still have to leave out a lot of content that I would like to use, because even over the course of three days, I will not be able to cover everything I know about public speaking.

But in the process of preparing for the upcoming Storytellers Project event in May, I'm having to approach my speaking in a way that is unfamiliar to me. I have to tell a story that took a year to unfold, in the course of 8-10 minutes. I have to be brief!

Ironically, I spend a lot of time working with clients who have very short presentations to deliver, such as keynotes (that might last 30 minutes) or speeches during public comment periods at city or county government meetings, that might only be 2-3 minutes long. I'm really good at helping them get rid of anything not critical to the core message while still maintaining emotional engagement, stories and the most important details.

In my Speak to Engage trainings, I display a slide with an image of a cleaver, and the words "Be brutal." You may have heard "kill your babies" or "kill your darlings," variations on the expression "Murder your darlings," originally attributed to Arthur Quiller-Couch, from his 1914 lecture "On Style."

What all of these expressions have in common with each other, as well as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's quote at the top, is the concept of cutting, culling, thinning out, simplifying, tightening, reducing and narrowing down.

Notice that no one suggests improving your presentation (or your writing, or your aircraft) by adding a bunch of stuff. Even Coco Chanel was quoted saying "Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take at least one thing off." Or something close to that. Which would be a problem for me as, lately, I'm only wearing earrings. I'm not sure I'm ready for the one-earring look.

Yes, we would all like to add more to our presentations: More facts, more data, more content, more humor, more persuasion! But as you add, so must you subtract. 

In fact, cutting and culling can be painful. It requires the ability to let go of something we want to hold onto, a piece of writing or a story we think will make all the difference!

For example, adding humor doesn't necessarily mean adding more words. It means rearranging what you've written so that the right words, in the right order, make the line funny. And we all know, logically, that adding more facts and data just confounds and exhausts our audiences.

Good writing and speaking are about how you express your ideas, in terms of how compelling, creative, intriguing, provocative or thought-provoking your words are. The number of words you use is not even a factor, except for the literal time frame you're given to express them.

The "New Beginnings" story I'm telling on May 9 for the Storytellers Project (tickets available here) is one of the shortest presentations I've ever given. It's not even a presentation. It's merely a story. I have ten minutes total, but right now it's at about eight minutes, and I don't want it to be much longer.
First of all, I have to memorize it! *Stomach does flip flops*

Second of all, I want it to be lean. I want it to be entertaining, and I want there to be enough detail and color so that the audience can feel connected to my story, and even feel like they're inside the story. But I don't want to go on and on, saying something in 25 words that I can say in 12.

It happens that I have a history of being too brief. In high school and college, when I was asked to write a ten-page paper, I couldn't stretch it to more than eight. Even the Storytellers Project story clocked in at five minutes the first time I delivered it to my coaches. They asked me to add more detail, so I did. But I'm a fan of brevity, a clean structure, and an easily navigated journey.

Still, this is a challenge for me, as I typically don't need to be quite so lean and quite so brief!

How about you? Are you a good self-editor? Are you willing and able to cut out the extraneous so that the beautiful and powerful core of your message can shine through?

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Are you an entrepreneur or professional who's looking for better results from your speaking? Are you hoping to build credibility and visibility for your business or cause? Tired of just "getting by" and ready to deliver truly engaging and powerful presentations? Click here to fill out my consultation questionnaire and we'll schedule a time to talk!

February 10, 2018

I can do anything better than I can



Maybe you've heard the song "Anything You Can Do" from the musical "Annie Get Your Gun." It's a classic duet with the characters Annie Oakley and Frank Butler attempting to prove their ability to outdo each other in a variety of tasks. 

Some people are more competitive than others; I'm not a fan of my competitive side (I take competition a little too seriously, so I choose not to compete with others), but I do enjoy competing with myself!

As a speaker, it can be really easy to fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to and mentally competing with others. While it's often helpful and motivating to find inspiration in the veterans who have achieved the goals we're still striving for, it can also be demotivating to perceive our own levels of success to be disappointing in comparison.

I wrote this in another post, and will share it here as a reminder:

"Where were you a month ago or a year ago in your development? Look how far you’ve come! Look at what you’ve accomplished over time. When you compare yourself to yourself, you’re much more likely to come out ahead. And if not, at least you know intimately where you’re letting yourself down in your own growth and improvement....

When you understand the value and unique perspective you bring to your audiences and clients, there is no longer any need or desire to be like or to copy someone else."

Instead of "Anything you can do, I can do better," how about trying this reframe, from Visa's Olympic-inspired commercial? Athletes compete against others, but also fully embrace the challenges of competing against their own best performances.

(Lyrics below the video.)

   

If you'd like some help with the mindset part of your speaking toolkit, in addition to pumping up your speaking skills and strategies, you can still sign up for my Shake Up Your Speaking retreat, coming up March 19-21. Don't wait too long, though; there are only four spots left!

Lyrics:

Anything I can do, I can do better
I can do anything better than me
Yes I can. Yes I can. Yes I can. Yes I can.

Anything we can be, we can be greater
We can be anything greater than we
Yes we can. Yes we can. Yes we can.

I can do more than I ever imagined
I can do more than I ever dreamed
Yes I can. Yes I can. Yes I can.
Sooner, not later I'm greater than me

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Are you an entrepreneur or professional who's looking for better results from your speaking? Are you hoping to build credibility and visibility for your business or cause? Tired of just "getting by" and ready to deliver truly engaging and powerful presentations? Click here to fill out my consultation questionnaire and we'll schedule a time to talk!

January 5, 2018

I can't believe I did that



When's the last time you said "I can't believe I did that" (and not about something naughty, like toilet-papering your neighbor's house when you were thirteen or shrinking your best friend's sweater in the wash and telling her it was in your lost luggage somewhere over the Atlantic)?

When's the last time you took a risk—a good risk—and felt your heart grow three sizes with anticipation and hope? When's the last time you did something you were scared to do and stockpiled a whole new stash of confidence in your back pocket?

For me: Yesterday. 

I was scrolling through one of the Facebook groups I'm in for authors, and came across an article promoting a storytelling event in my area. They were looking for participants to fill four upcoming events in 2018 with the themes "Love, Romance and Other Disasters," "New Beginnings," "On the Road," and "Holidays and Family."

I'm not a storyteller. Or, to be more accurate, I tell a LOT of stories, but they're not memorized and they come out different every time. I tell stories in my everyday life, I tell stories as a trainer, I tell stories in my book. So I'm not unfamiliar with stories, but I am unfamiliar with the formal art of storytelling. Not to mention the fact that most presentations I give are several hours long, if not days long, and the stories told at this event are 8-10 minutes long. I can barely say my own name in ten minutes.

But when I saw the theme "New Beginnings," I immediately knew I had a story to tell, and without hesitation, I filled out the application form and hit the submit button.

What is wrong with me? I would never do this. While I am indeed an Activator (Gallup StrengthsFinder® #1 strength, in fact), I do not just willy-nilly apply for every speaking engagement that comes my way. I like to ruminate, cogitate, ponder, consider and chew over every submission to make sure it's right for me and for my business. Like most people, I find it scary to get out of my comfort zone, so when a new opportunity comes along that I'm not sure I can pull off, I spend a lot of time procrastinating before I make a decision.

And exactly for that reason—because it's scary to get out of my comfort zone—I regularly take the opportunity to push myself, and I did it yesterday.

There's a note on my office white board that says, "Your next comfort zone awaits." I can't very well expect my clients to take big leaps in confidence if I'm not constantly putting pressure on myself as well. So, yep. My application will be reviewed and, whether not I get accepted to tell a story, I will have a new stockpile of confidence in my back pocket just for having applied.

So, back to my original question: When's the last time you said, "I can't believe I did that" because you took a risk and took a baby step toward getting out of your comfort zone?

And if it's been a while since you challenged your speaking skills and comfort level, could you use some help getting there? Perhaps you don't even have a speaking comfort zone yet! But if you do, you know you need to dare yourself and fracture the walls of that safe space in order to grow and upgrade your skills.

I've got the perfect environment to offer you, both encouraging and challenging, where you can explore your next level of skills and confidence, in a small group format, over a leisurely couple of days this spring. In a mansion. With llamas and chickens.

Check out my Shake Up Your Speaking retreat, March 19-21, in Ojai, California. It's exactly where you need to be if you're ready to stop procrastinating on your speaking goals and take a transformational leap forward.

I'll keep you posted on whether I get selected to speak at the storytelling event. It's a challenge I hope I get to tackle!

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Are you an entrepreneur or professional who's looking for better results from your speaking? Are you hoping to build credibility and visibility for your business or cause? Tired of just "getting by" and ready to deliver truly engaging and powerful presentations? Click here to fill out my consultation questionnaire and we'll schedule a time to talk!

December 27, 2017

Thomas Fire recovery sale




Happy holidays, friends!

I hope you've been enjoying the season. I was out of it for a couple of weeks dealing with the Thomas Fire, but I finally got myself back into work and life mode in the past week, and I've been wanting to do more for the recovery efforts in my community.

I donated to the Humane Society, which managed the bulk of animal rescue and care during the fire. Over 400 people came from all over the state to help care for the animals, even bringing their own supplies!

I've got bags of food and toys (and cat toys!) ready to go to HELP of Ojai, the organization that's managing much of the human recovery in the Ojai Valley.

And instead of driving to Ventura or Santa Barbara our nearby "big cities," or ordering gifts on Amazon, I kept my Christmas shopping local, to help our local businesses recover from lengthy closures and cutbacks.

But I want to be able to give more, so I decided to hold a quick flash sale to offer two popular items that aren't always available to my online peeps.

1) My "Take Your PowerPoint From Mess to Success" training is typically "Your Webinar Success: Speak to Engage Virtually!"
provided only to my corporate training clients, and I offer it online maybe once a year. You'll find it here, along with worksheets, downloads, and a replay of my recent virtual training

Your investment for this webinar/PowerPoint training package is only $97—and 20% of each sale will be donated to Ojai Thomas Fire relief programs through HELP of Ojai.

View the webinar offer here.

2) And my Speaker Survival Kits are not available online at all! I only bring
them to my live speaking engagements and book signings. I know a lot of people have been disappointed not to be able to make it to my events because they wanted one of my sassy beach bags full of essential items that speakers often overlook!

I sell the kits at speaking events for $67, but my special offer to you takes 30% off, for a grand total of $47—and again, 20% of each sale will be donated to Ojai Thomas Fire relief programs through HELP of Ojai. There is a limited supply of bags available, so you'll want to snag one of those first.

View the Speaker Survival Kits here.

Kick off your 2018 with a business boost and grab one of these two goodies before the offer expires at midnight PST on December 28. That's right, this offer is good for just 48 hours! Get it while you can, and while you're at it, help support Thomas Fire recovery in the Ojai Valley!



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Are you an entrepreneur or professional who's looking for better results from your speaking? Are you hoping to build credibility and visibility for your business or cause? Tired of just "getting by" and ready to deliver truly engaging and powerful presentations? Click here to fill out my consultation questionnaire and we'll schedule a time to talk!

November 6, 2017

You don't need a stage to need stage presence



I was recently contacted by a woman who manages a small team of young, inexperienced salespeople. She was primarily concerned with their lack of self-awareness; their behaviors in front of clients and prospects were less-than-stellar.

One person bites their nails in meetings. Another person avoids eye contact. Another is a pen-clicker. And yet another makes elaborate faces when trying to conceal a yawn.

Most of us have habits we're not aware of. That's what makes them habits; the fact that we repeat them and yet are not aware of them!

And taken individually, on occasion, in casual circumstances, these kinds of habits are normal and human. But when you put a group of people together, all of whom are displaying distracting behavior in a professional setting, it can become quite noticeable and can take attention away from where it belongs: on the business at hand.

We tend to talk about stage presence as the way we command a room when we're on a stage or in front of an audience. Stage presence combines charisma, confidence and the ability to captivate your audience. But it's not just for the stage. Or perhaps I should say, "You're always on stage."

Note that the word "presence" is part of "stage presence." Presence means that you are actively and emotionally engaged with the person or people you're talking or meeting with. Presence means you're not in your head, thinking about what's for dinner, or off in la-la land.

You're making eye contact. Your body language shows engagement and connection through nodding, smiling, leaning forward or whatever is your personal style of demonstrating connection.

Stage presence is required ANY time you're part of a meeting or discussion, even when you're not the facilitator. 

Imagine you're one of this small team mentioned above, and you're in a meeting with a prospective client. Your boss is negotiating a contract and the discussion is getting into the details of the scope of the project and the deliverables. But you're mentally in another place, unaware of what's happening in the room - or even with your own body. You're clicking your pen, fidgeting in your chair, and wondering what time the game starts after work.

Your boss turns to you, expecting you to fill in some details that are the purview of your department and expertise. But your brain is only half-focused and you're caught off guard. Of course, you answer the question, but you fumble for the right words and you've missed some of the key issues in the discussion, so you have to ask for clarification. Your boss is frustrated as she repeats what's already been covered.

Now imagine how this conversation would have gone if you were present. You would be absorbed in the conversation, your mind already putting together the pieces that you're responsible for. When it's time for you to contribute to the conversation, you're ready. You're on fire, in fact, because you know exactly what's needed from you, and you deliver. Your boss seamlessly picks up where she left off and the negotiation continues. There's a big "thank you" waiting at the end of the meeting, for your timely and thoughtful contribution.

This is the "presence" part of "stage presence," but the "stage" piece applies here as well. When you're in a meeting, you are absolutely on stage. The prospect or client is paying attention. Are you respectful? Are you pleasant? Are you helpful? Are you part of the collaboration? Are you bringing a positive energy to the room? Are you sitting upright, leaning in, part of the team?

Or are you disengaged, restless, bored, shifty, slouchy, looking at your hands or gazing out the window?

Surprise! You're not invisible! Your behavior and demeanor is noticed and noted. It may not make or break the sale, but you sure don't impress anyone as a team player. And you certainly don't inspire your boss to give you more responsibility or promote you.

Stage presence is required whether or not you're on stage, whether you're speaking to one person, five people or 50 people, whether you're running the meeting or in the background. We see you. We observe you. We remember you.

You can be remembered for being that fidgety guy with the pen or you can be remembered for being the guy with the great ideas. It's up to you!

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Are you an entrepreneur or professional who's looking for better results from your speaking? Are you hoping to build credibility and visibility for your business or cause? Tired of just "getting by" and ready to deliver truly engaging and powerful presentations? Click here to fill out my consultation questionnaire and we'll schedule a time to talk!

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